Dr. John Deen at the University of Minnesota says, "Through our work developing this chute, we also discovered that by providing individual attention to the sow, we have the potential to increase her performance and give her a more valued place within the herd."
Dr. John Deen at the University of Minnesota says, "Through our work developing this chute, we also discovered that by providing individual attention to the sow, we have the potential to increase her performance and give her a more valued place within the herd."

Lameness is a primary reason for lost productivity and culling of sows and gilts from the herd. The Feet First Chute, available from Zinpro Corporation, provides stockpeople with a safe and less stressful way to lift sows and gilts in order to inspect and trim their feet.

When a sow is lame, it leads to lower feed intake (especially during lactation), decreased reproductive performance and ultimately, early exit from the herd. Significant production losses caused by lameness may be preventable when proactive steps are taken.

"The most common historic methods of managing long toes are either culling or sneaking up on the sow and trying to get the nipper on the toe before the sow moves. Neither method is effective," says John Deen, DVM, Ph.D., professor of veterinary population medicine, University of Minnesota, USA.

Snaring the snout can be used to immobilize sows for claw trimming and other procedures, but it results in significant stress, evidenced by loud vocalizations and a great reluctance to be snared again. In some cases, the sow can be injured due to the restraint, and if the sow remains standing, it's very difficult for the stockperson to lift a foot to trim a claw, Deen says. Cattle chutes have been tried for restraining sows, but in his experience, they don't work well. "You can put the sows in a squeeze chute and on their sides and immobilize the legs, but they are frustrated in this position, and again, the stockpeople handling the legs are also frustrated," he adds.

Developed Specifically for Pigs
The problems encountered trying to restrain and trim sow feet prompted Zinpro Corporation to develop the Feet First Chute. The chute, designed specifically for swine, consists of a crate with a padded center bar; the sow simply walks in and is lifted off her feet (Figure 1). Deen explains, "Experience with the device has demonstrated that most sows remain calm once they are in the crate and lifted, even when the feet are manipulated. We noticed that we didn't need hearing protection. We didn't hear loud vocalizations associated with lifting once the sow was raised."

"I was ready with my ropes and restraint and my hearing protection, but I didn't need them," Deen adds. Consequently, safety was improved compared to snaring; there were no injuries to sows or to personnel when using the chute.

"I was ready with my ropes and restraint and my hearing protection, but I didn't need them," Deen adds. Consequently, safety was improved compared to snaring; there were no injuries to sows or to personnel when using the chute.

"The other thing we noticed over time was that there was very little trouble with re-entry. Sows would re-enter the chute time and time again," Deen says. Click here to view the Feet First Chute in action. Additional videos available show key features of the Feet First Chute, how to prepare and load animals and proper claw trimming fundamentals.

For more information about the Feet First Chute, please visit: www.zinpro.com/feet-first-chute. To learn more about the Feet First program, including materials on locomotion scoring, lesion identification and claw trimming, please visit: www.zinpro.com/lameness/swine.